And Again We Renovate

From the beginning I want to be crystal clear about a couple of things:

  1. For designers, the struggle is real … designing for yourself is NOT easy.
  2. Having the mental fortitude to navigate the CA real estate scene is reason enough to be celebratory.

So hats off to any of you that have done this and lived to tell your story!! Let me assure you, this post is certainly not a “woe is me” post about “how stressful it is to have a house and make all these selections”. Absolutely not! Glenn and I are SO grateful. However, all jokes aside, renovating is difficult physically (even if you aren’t doing the work) and emotionally challenging for everyone involved IF things go perfectly smooth (and the little secret here is that ‘things never go perfectly smooth” during a renovation. After completing 4 major renovations before this one…trust me…Glenn and I were fully aware of the road ahead of us. So, we decided to move forward with full knowledge of what was in store. And we are so glad we did. Why, you may ask? For us, the answer is simple…we both love the process. We are our best selves during renovation; both us of creative and resourceful. Oh…that doesn’t mean that there are no disagreements or compromises…it just means that in those times, we both commit fully to the goal of making the house better than it was before. We bring all of our conviction, all of our ideas, and all of our ibuprofen, and set our on the journey together.

Now that all of the grandiose ideas are out of the way, I’ll share with you my biggest fear for this particular renovation and how I overcame it.

Fear: Glenn wanted to use color on the interior! That fear paralyzed me for 3 weeks, and inspired me to share the experience with you.

Those of you that know me, know that I LOVE an all white space. For the last 10 years (at least) and EVERY home that we have had in the time, I have used Benjamin Moore White Dove on all of the interior walls. I know that color so well. If you lined up all of Benjamin Moore’s ~whites, I could pick out White Dove from 500 paces. It is familiar…it is impeccably pristine without being fussy, it is clean, yet still warm…it is comforting to me. It is everything I need a color to be. But now, sweet Glenn, the one who had tirelessly painted all of those previous walls White Dove, had a very strong opinion….he wanted color. At first, I disregarded his conviction. He quickly reminded me that we were NOT painting all of the walls white here. “Hillhouse (our name for our newly acquired homestead) needs a color, Todd … a color.” Please know that I tried every way to use white as the main color from offer date to close date and every date in between. Finally, in a moment of realizing that fighting was futile, I walked alone into the living room armed with only a fan deck to face one of my biggest fears: picking a color for us.

Why was I so scared of selecting a color? For weeks I had asked myself that question and for weeks I was dumbfounded. I spent hours thinking about this. What could it be? Why did having the thought of a color, other than white, on the walls make me so uneasy. Then, two days before the move, I was standing in the laundry room of our rental house packing accessories and it hit me. Like a bolt of lightening, the answer came so fast to me. Looking at all of the accessories reminded me of my love to rearrange things…all the time. I enjoy rearranging furniture. I like to move art and accessories around. I think it keeps our look interesting and I love using pieces differently than I normally do. Bottom line … I like the creativity involved in the process of changing things around. I enjoy the process. I like the challenge it brings. White was a backdrop that never interfered with my love of change. I never worried about whether all of my changes were going to look good against a wall color. But now I had to ask myself “was white the only color that could offer that flexibility?” When asked that way it almost sounded like a challenge. Surely I was up to the challenge … right? So, With a slightly new perspective on color, I began my quest with a little less uncertainty.

Choosing just the right paint color and finish is really an exercise that you can’t learn in a classroom. Every project, every room, has a life of it’s own. Light dances differently in every space. Color reads differently “in situ” than on a presentation board. I have also learned that that personally, unless, the molding or “trim” in a house or room is architecturally splendid, extremely unique, or tastefully detailed, I don’t like the trim to be a contrasting color from the wall (that was a huge lesson to learn).

Applying that tenet at Hillhouse was easy. In its current state, the architecturally insignificant molding was painted a glossy, cool white contrasting with the soft yellow wall color. I knew that was a look that I didn’t want to replicate. Without any fear, I was able to get a picture in my mind of walls and trim being the same color. What color I didn’t know yet … but I was making progress. Baby steps here. Now … the finish of the paint. Two questions loomed. What overall finish did I want on the walls and what finish did I want on the trim? The “trim finish” question really was an interesting one. There was no crown molding at Hillhouse … only small scale molding around the interior doors and base molding….neither of which did I want to highlight. So, there was the answer … don’t change the finish. Ok, I told myself, but what finish? A careful inspection of the current state of the walls and that question was easily answered. Satin. I knew that I didn’t want the walls flat in the main part of the house and I knew that they didn’t need to be overly shiny anywhere. Satin seemed almost too easy. Could I paint the walls and trim the same color and the same finish? Yes, I could. The more I thought about it, the more I knew it was right.

But still I hadn’t chosen a color. Again, if you know me, you know how loyal I am to my beloved Benjamin Moore paint. All of our homes over the last 27 years have been painted interior and exterior with Benjamin Moore … I love that paint. So, with my trusted Benjamin Moore fan deck, I started looking for a color. Glenn kept describing the feel of what he wanted as “unexpected”. I didn’t find that particularly helpful in narrowing down the field since EVERY color was “unexpected” except White Dove. Our furniture, all varying shades of white or grey, would work with just about anything. The new kitchen was going to have dark stained cabinetry…again, not very helpful in selecting a color.

To keep the process moving forward, I began selecting colors and having samples made. We were new to Martinez CA, and I really had no idea where anything was located except The Home Depot because of close proximity to the freeway. In an effort to embrace our new town, instead of heading into Walnut Creek CA, to the Benjamin Moore store, I headed off to The Home Depot….yes….The Home Depot. At this point, I will absolutely say that the staff in the paint department of the Martinez, CA Home Depot and I are especially close. I asked them to find the formula and mix way too many samples of Benjamin Moore colors. To their credit, they can color match like nobody’s business … a skill that surely I helped them develop. I tried EVERY shade of Navy Blue possible. All of them were lovely and none of them were right for Hillhouse. However, in the process of trying, I did discover that Hale Navy, Very Navy, Old Navy, and Naval are all lovely colors.

After the disappointment with Navy, I tried something more neutral, of course which Glenn hated. Every gray/beige tone you can imagine was at some point considered. Again, wrong for the main living areas at Hillhouse, but Just so you know … Intellectual, (currently my closet color), Burnished Pewter (currently my office color), Chinchilla, and Thunderstruck are all lovely shades of greige. The same can be said for Terra Cotta…a personal favorite, but again wrong for Hillhouse. For the sake of transparency, I can share that Nouveau Copper, Oxide, and Rusty lovely shades of Terra Cotta if that is what you need. I, unfortunately, did not need that.

Exasperated and downtrodden, I went back to Home Depot one more time. That night, on the drive over, I asked myself to find common denominator in all of the wrong paint colors. Then, like a bolt of lightening, two things struck me: Navy, Taupe, and Terra Cotta were all colors that I had used before. They were new to Hillhouse, but not new to us. Ok, I thought, I’m going to choose something that I have never chosen before. So, I did. I chose a color and a brand that I had never chosen before. I bought the sample and headed quickly to the house to test some on the wall. And, once I saw it, I instantly knew that I had found the winner. I could hear choirs singing! The new color hit every note that we needed it to:

  1. It met Glenn’s requirement of a “color”
  2. It was a color that I had never used before
  3. It was lovely with our existing furnishings
  4. It was, actually, quite neutral
  5. It was very comforting
  6. It was just plain pretty

It was Behr’s City Rain. It is so hard to describe. It constantly changes with the light. Some describe it as grey while some say green or blue. Some have described it as a deep teal or aquamarine. Really, all of those are correct…depending on when you see it and how bright the light is outside. It is a chameleon and I love that.

More than anything, I loved it for two reasons: the decision had finally been made AND Glenn was happy. He thought the color was just “unexpected” enough (whatever that means). Gleefully we checked paint color off of the list.

Now … bring on the next decision.